While the ever-elusive UK sun may have revived our souls for the past week—a gaslighting moment where I question if seasonal depression is even real—the fear of the world ending is as present as ever. But for gen Z, among the swelling rates of anxiety and depression as a result of such global issues, comes an irreplaceable insurgent humour that leans into that whole end-of-the-world ‘vibe’. Manifesting first as a fashion aesthetic, dystopiacore has, in my opinion, since morphed from its infamous grunge-inspired garms into a Wattpad-esque desire to fall into your dystopian backdrop of choice at your local gym and workout like your favourite teen hero. Hold on, I’ll explain.
Gen Z’s obsession with everything Y2K is no longer particularly noteworthy, it is quite plainly obvious to see—it has been a period that has revived the elements of our childhood we so clearly miss. And now, it seems us older gen Zers seem to be reliving our teenage-hood. The romanticisation and aestheticisation of the 2010s, think Tumblr girl era, has been clawing its way back into relevancy in 2022. However, a fundamental ingredient of that time quietly resurfacing—perhaps masked by Effy Stonem’s cigarette smoke and drowned out by the indie melodies of The Arctic Monkeys—is the young adult (YA) dystopian universe.
The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner series paved an era of cinema like no other. It provided a strange sort of escapism into an alternate apocalyptic future reality for humanity that appealed to the teen masses—myself included. But what was it about such dangerous possibilities that birthed fanfiction desires to be in them too—to model yourself after Katniss, Tris or Thomas? Perhaps their resurgence is reflective of a real rage mounting against the oppressive forces found in the establishment, an internal frustration that has manifested into the idolisation of fictional revolution.
One I guess you’d need to be fit for… Hence this introduction to the dystopiacore workout.
In an article exploring the emergence of fashion’s dystopiacore, SCREENSHOT writer Francesca Johnson aptly illustrated the style: “Decked out in long black jackets, versatile trench coats and massive combat boots, gen Z are ditching stretchy waistbands and comfy loungewear […] joggers are out and cargos are in, people.” But now, it looks like gym wear is back in, as cargos are replaced with Lululemon leggings for the dystopia training you hopefully may never need.
At times coupled with ‘the feminine urge’ trend, users are utilising the soundtracks of their favourite dystopian movies into a motivational daydream as part of the universe. Most commonly, you’ll find the vibrant, fast-paced track of Divergent used to propel the gym-goer into the faction of Dauntless—one of the five groups in which the imaginary population is divided. Dauntless’ distinct, wild and challenging military-like training procedure—skills that become invaluable to heroine Tris as she navigates combat against the powers at be—seem to provide the perfect push for more reps, complete with Four as your imaginary personal trainer.
@lavendercashewmilklatte Imagine if divergent had more of a friends to enemies to lovers storyline 🖤 #OutlanderChallenge #divergent ♬ Run Boy Run – Woodkid
With one user writing, “The feminine urge to wear your black Lulu jacket and blast the Divergent soundtrack while you work out and imagine you’re a Dauntless born, training with Four in the pit because a war is coming and you were born for this, to fight and protect.” Maybe this shows such internalised anxieties of the future of humanity and whether or not we will be able to survive its changing structure—it could be we’re reading way too far into it though.
Perhaps, instead, this could be yet another epithet of ‘main character’ catharsis we so seem to need? Imagining ourselves as the physically capable hero—in any dystopian universe—may actually make its way into our reality, developing a much needed internal strength. Another TikToker said, “Preparing myself for either the zombie apocalypse, joining Dauntless, fighting in the Hunger Games, treasure hunting or getting out of the maze. The plot changes every time at the gym.”
It goes even further than just some silly little videos on the internet, with one fitness fanatic actually crafting a free Dauntless inspired workout plan. Becky, who runs a page dedicated to the Divergent series and one of its stars Theo James, noticed the trend surfacing on the app and cleverly created a workout plan inspired by the movie’s military marvels. “As someone on a fitness journey for the past seven months and a fangirl since I was 13, I’ve always wanted to workout with the Dauntless. So I present to you my Dauntless training manual,” she announced. With no less than one million views on the video, it’s safe to say the idea is popular.
Containing a foreword cautioning those following the programme that she is not a licensed trainer or affiliated with the official brand of Divergent, the five-week training instructions come complete with specially curated Dauntless inspired playlists, video codecs of clips featuring Four inducting you into Dauntless as well as audio files to accompany your fitness sessions.
It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but hey, if it gets you up and running and doesn’t involve the dangers of train hopping—then why not right? I’m saying that because I tried it, all for research of course.
How would you dress for the apocalypse? It’s probably not something you’ve previously thought about, but I’m sure I could guess off the top of my head. Maybe something durable, a lot of layers perhaps, even multipurpose pockets like in a pair of trusty cargo pants? Facing the end of the world, you’ve got to be prepared, right?
Well, it seems like fashion has asked and answered that question already, with people online birthing a trend out of such speculation. Some people are plain doomers, others are doomsday preppers. But what about those who are right in the middle, embracing the scary global chaos? Enter dystopiacore.
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Gen Zers are faced with many options when it comes to fashion choices. You can take a trip down memory lane with the Bratz X GCDS line, step into your youth with a pair of glossy jelly shoes, or even bring out your inner 00s fashion model in low rise jeans.
If you dig the utility vibe and aren’t into colourful fashion however, then dystopiacore might be right up your monochrome, minimalist alley. Simply speaking, dystopiacore at its core is a darker and edgier fashion aesthetic that resembles the grunge and goth looks.
And it couldn’t come at a better time, since gothcore, metalcore and punkcore are on the horizon to dominate fashion trends in 2022. In the mainstream once again, with a little help from the star-studded power couple Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly—as cringe as they may be—goth’s going chic. Dystopiacore is one of the many aesthetics to watch out for this year and here’s why.
Taking its name from the genre of dystopia, the category where utopian dreams come to die and fashion begins to thrive, dystopiacore epitomises the ‘too cool for school’ (and the world) mentality that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. In the wasteland of worries and woes about the future, as we approach yet another year living within the COVID-19 pandemic’s grasp, saying ‘fuck it’ looks pretty good to me.
Decked out in long black jackets, versatile trench coats and massive combat boots, gen Z are ditching stretchy waistbands and comfy loungewear. According to dystopiacore, joggers are out and cargos are in, people.
Gone is the work-from-home wear that most of us are sick of slumming it in, according to author and expert on everything gothic and to do with vampires, Nick Groom, who shared a few words with The Guardian on evolving fashion trends. “People have stopped the rather passive onesie/pyjama stay-at-home, work-from-home-in-your-comfort-clothes trend and realise that they need to be more active and get out,” Groom explained.
Trend forecaster Geraldine Wharry told The Guardian, “Fashion statements often have an element of defiance. In this particular case, the defiance is the darkness and dystopian aspect.” I mean, what’s darker than totalitarian environmental degradation? “The idea that optimism is not cool and doesn’t reflect our current times, similar to what punks stood for during the 70s,” is where dystopiacore finds its appeal, Wharry continued.
Along with the rise of dopamine dressing—the maximalist rainbow throw up twin of dystopiacore—that is also a new trend for the 2022 wardrobe, not everyone is on board. It seems like we’re catching up with Hollywood’s releases of dark sci-fi blockbusters and keeping hold of our leather jackets after The Matrix Resurrections’ late 2021 release. With the world fawning over Timothée Chalamet (once again) for his appearance in the cinematic sci-fi epic Dune, fashion in this post-apocalyptic genre has been kickstarted once again.
Speaking to The Guardian, fashion professor Zara Anishanslin delved into the possible reasons for this spike in popularity towards doomsday apparel. “The experience of living through a pandemic is somewhat like that of living through a war: both are traumatising collective experiences, both have people battling on the ‘frontlines’, both result in a distressingly large number of deaths,” she told the publication.
Originally popularised by military soldiers, this trend of wearing durable, functional and resilient clothings has retained its uniquely universal utility aspect. To venture into the harsh and desolate world, people are using dystopiacore as a shield of armour of sorts. By now, we are all used to preparing ourselves for simple errands—PSA: always wear your mask, COVID-19 hasn’t suddenly disappeared after we were freed from incessant lockdowns.
We are in the midst of the Avant Apocalypse, for those of you who aren’t aware. The trend, currently booming on TikTok with #AvantApocalypse garnering over 280,000 videos on the platform, has given many the idea to distress their clothes. The DIY trend features creators tearing up their tights and stockings to turn them into tops and recycling old distressed clothes with archive fashion couture pieces to get that grunge but stylish look.
Dystopiacore takes the same sort of approach to fashion, fitting into the futuristic fantasy look with layers and layers of subversive basics clothes too. Think of the outfits worn by new it couple Kanye West and Julia Fox, covered head to toe in Balenciaga. West’s own line of clothing, Yeezy, is the perfect example of dystopiacore.
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As well as Balenciaga, other fashion houses are pinned as top makers of the military gear sported by wearers of this trend, like A-COLD-WALL*. Samuel Ross, the brand’s founder and fashion designer, spoke on the growth and push towards the futuristic aesthetic that dystopiacore offers. Addressing his dystopiacore-themed Autumn/Winter 2022 collection he recently presented in Milan, Ross said, “The idea of protection is a bit more universal across luxury, contemporary and streetwear now, for sure.”
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“We’ve always had a utilitarian angle, but this season we wanted to bring in a more ‘on the nose aspect’,” Ross concluded. Maybe it truly is time to switch out the sweats for some cargos, huh.